In a change of heart, Maryland’s $388 million Educational Systems Federal Credit Union is putting to rest the idea of a merger conversion fee to help defray expenses in its takeover of the once-ailing $401 million Montgomery County Teachers FCU of Derwood, Md.
Cancellation of the one-time $35 charge, which would have been assessed against the 57,000 members of MCT, came just over a week after Educational Systems FCU of Greenbelt, Md., unveiled the special fee on the MCT website.
The $35 charge drew some critical opposition from within member ranks of MCT and a handful of both positive and negative comments from within the industry, including comments appearing on the Credit Union Times website.
Educational Systems CEO Chris Conway, in justifying the unusual charge, said the decision to rescind the fee was made after hearing objections from members, including board members of MCT, which was effectively merged into ESFCU on July 31.
Conway had said the MCT merger fee would have generated $2 million, enough to offset various operational expenses associated with the merger. He mentioned signage, credit cards and a data processing conversion that involves hardware and software upgrades plus leasing charges.
Conway had originally maintained the 39,800 members of Educational Systems should not bear the costs of consolidating the troubled MCT, which had originally sought out ESFCU as a potential partner last May following prodding by the NCUA to find a partner.
On the MCT website posted last week under the headings “You Told Us and We Listened” and “There Is a Better Way,” members were told the conversion fee was being dropped and that through greater product and service usage by MCT members, the financial health of the suburban Rockville credit union can be restored.
In elaborating on the switch, Conway told Credit Union Times that “as we talked about the account conversion fee, I shared that we had only received about 50 or 60 emails and only half of them were regarding the account conversion fee. Most of these members didn’t like the fee but were willing to do their part to preserve MCT’s legacy.”
He added, “The simple request by one member to find another way got me thinking, ... Isn’t the better way to restore MCT by simply asking the members to simply do more? Could this work?”
After spending one day soliciting feedback from members, staff and the NCUA, Conway said, “I looked at our numbers to ensure that we will be well-capitalized in short order. and the conclusion that I came to, and subsequently presented to my board, was that rescinding the fee feels right.”
Thomas Hickman, chairman of the former MCT board who had been critical of the fee maintaining the action caught him and other board members by surprise, said, “I think it was a wise decision and we’re grateful they made the change.”
Prior to the voluntary merger, with talks starting earlier this year, MCT had been under a regulatory watch after it suffered large losses in secondary mortgages. racking up a $6 million loss for 2010 and a $739,000 loss last year. Its net worth had hovered at 4.4%. and it had recently been hit by an NCUA cease-and-desist order for exam exceptions.
The latest website message as it appeared Aug. 13 outlined ways MCT members in place of the $35 fee can contribute to the credit union’s financial condition by taking out car loans, signing up for e-statements and refinancing mortgages.
MCT members can also use “your MCT checking and debit accounts and set up direct deposit and pay bills online,” the website announcement urged.